From Helen Whately <[email protected]>
Subject A new phase in our response to coronavirus
Date September 30, 2020 6:35 PM
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An update on my work in Westminster and beyond

Welcome to my newsletter
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** A new phase in our response to coronavirus

Summer feels like it is well and truly over. And with the chill wind has come the increase in coronavirus cases, that we have known would likely come our way this winter.

While the situation in Kent is not as bad as other parts of the country, infection rates in the county are now at their highest levels since June.

As in the spring, this wave of coronavirus has hit countries in continental Europe first, particularly Spain and France. There we are seeing rising cases sadly leading to full hospitals and more deaths.

In parts of England where rates are highest we are similarly seeing rising hospital admissions and the prospect again of having to stop elective surgery and other less urgent treatments, which we know is seriously damaging for people’s health.

We cannot wish a second wave of the virus away.

I know new restrictions on gatherings and the 10pm curfew are frustrating for many people and businesses, but if we don’t act now, we will sadly see more untimely deaths and by then it will be too late.

The latest round of measures have struck a balance between keeping our country going, and keeping coronavirus under control. This is particularly needed for our schools and businesses.

The Government is constantly reviewing the effectiveness of the measures, and we have seen evidence over the last few months of changes in behaviour and a levelling off or decline in new infections as a result of restrictions.

While this continues to be a difficult time, there are reasons to be optimistic.

I have seen for myself in the Department for Health and Social Care, the hard work that was put in over the summer to increase our testing and tracing capacity, which includes the roll out of the NHS Covid-19 app.

If you haven’t downloaded the app yet please do join the millions who have! Along with social distancing, this is a way you can play your part in controlling the virus.

We are in a much better place than we were in the spring. This may feel like a long winter, but we will get through it together.
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The NHS Covid-19 app ([link removed]) is a significant step forward in our efforts to tackle the virus

** Kent Medical School opens its doors

After years of hard work, the Kent and Medway Medical School has welcomed its first students this month.

I remember after I was first elected in 2015, working with our local universities to turn the vision of a medical school into a plan.

Five years later, and after a huge amount of work from all involved, I’m delighted that the first medical students are taking up their places in Canterbury.

We need excellent doctors in Kent more than ever. Our fantastic NHS is nothing without the people who work in it. The new medical school will help us recruit and train more homegrown doctors.
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Updating Parliament on work to increase the number of nurses in our NHS

** Cash injection for A&E services in Kent

Emergency care services in Kent are getting a £12 million funding boost this winter.

The extra funding will support capacity at A&E departments, meaning doctors and nurses in our NHS hospitals can continue to provide high quality care and treatment to people as we enter the winter months.

£5 million will be shared between three NHS trusts in Kent, whilst £7 million has been allocated for specific upgrade work at the William Harvey in Ashford and QEQM in Margate.

Across the country, the Government is spending £450 million on upgrading A&Es this winter. I’m pleased Kent is getting its share of this extra funding.

** Making Shepway a better place to live
With local councillors and Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott visiting shops and businesses in Shepway

I visited Shepway earlier this month with Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Scott, for an update on efforts to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.

There is some really good work being done locally, and getting extra police officers and PCSOs in Maidstone is another step in the right direction. But talking to local residents, it’s clear there is more work to do.

As part of my visit, I chaired a meeting in Shepway Youth Centre with youth workers, faith leaders, the local Police Community Support Officer, and councillors, to look at what more we can do to improve things.
Visiting the award-winning Wayfarers Wines ([link removed]) in Hollingbourne

** Campaign to save Lenham Heath continues

Concerns about a huge new development at Lenham Heath have not gone away.

Earlier this month, I took part in a virtual meeting with Lenham Parish Council and members of the Save Our Heath Lands campaign to plan the next steps in the campaign to save Lenham Heath.

Maidstone Borough Council has endorsed plans for a council-led ‘garden village’ that would see 4,000 new homes built in the area.

However, the development still needs to get approval from the Council’s Planning Committee. The Committee met earlier this month, but they deferred any decision on the development until later in the year.

** What you think about 20mph in Faversham?
With local councillors hearing people's views on the new lower speed limit in Faversham

A new town-wide 20mph speed limit is now in place across Faversham.

The scheme was approved by Kent County Council earlier in the summer following a successful bid for funding from the Government’s Active Travel Fund to make our streets safer for cycling and walking.

Campaigners from 20’s Plenty for Faversham have been leading calls for a lower speed limit for many years, and I’m pleased it has finally become a reality.

This is only a trial scheme, and it will be reviewed to see what impact it is having on the town. Take part in the consultation here ([link removed]) .

Talking to people at the Sittingbourne Job Centre about how the Government's Kickstart Scheme ([link removed]) can benefit people locally

** New broadband voucher scheme launched

People and businesses in Kent will be able to apply for funding to access gigabit broadband in the hardest to reach places.

I’m delighted that Kent is one of 17 councils across the country to top up the Government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme with an additional £22 million.

Local residents and small businesses will be eligible for a new voucher of up to £7,000 ([link removed]) to subsidise the cost of extending superfast broadband to their area.

This is part of the Government’s £5 billion investment to roll out gigabit broadband across the country. With more people working from home, a good internet connection is needed more than ever!

** Putting the swing back into Faversham’s creek bridge
Speaking to local councillors and campaigners about the next steps in getting a new creek bridge

Earlier this month, I brought together representatives from Kent County Council, Faversham Town Council, the Faversham Society and the Faversham Creek Trust for an update on plans to restore the creek bridge.

I believe Peel Ports have an obligation to keep the bridge and creek in good working order, and it’s important this is honoured.

There is a lot of support for the bridge and creek being locally managed and operated in future, but they have to be handed over in good working order.

I’ve discussed the situation with the new Maritime Minister, Rob Courts MP, and he has written to Peel Ports' Chief Executive.

** Looking after our loved ones this winter
Our adult social care Winter Plan was published earlier this month

Protecting people in care homes remains a priority.

As Care Minister, I’ve driven forward the work on our Winter Plan for care homes to make sure they have all the support they need over the months ahead.

Our brilliant care workers have been tirelessly looking after our loved ones throughout this pandemic, and rates of infection have come right down in social care over the summer.

The majority of care homes in Kent have managed to remain free from coronavirus throughout the pandemic. With the extra support provided in our Winter Plan - including free PPE - I hope this will continue over the winter months.
The Green Homes Grant ([link removed]) starts this month, with vouchers up to £5,000 to make homes more energy efficient.

** Keeping Kent moving as EU transition ends

I’m continuing to press Ministers and officials for solutions to keep Kent moving ahead of the EU transition ending on 31 December.

I still want to see us secure a free trade agreement with the EU – which will allow freight to continue flowing along our roads to the Channel Ports – but it’s right we prepare for any outcome.

In recent meetings with Cabinet Office Minister, Michael Gove MP, and policy advisers in No 10, I’ve stressed the need to keep Kent’s roads clear of extra lorries.

Operation Brock, and any new customs checks, need to avoid forcing lorries onto roads – like the A251 – which are completely unsuitable for HGVs.

** And finally…from Kent to Kobe!

Kent producers are set to benefit from our new trade deal with Japan.

Whitstable oysters, Kentish ale, East Kent Golding hops and English sparkling wine are among the county's iconic products which could be protected in Japan for the first time as part of a new trade deal.

By increasing geographical indications (GIs) from just seven under the terms of the EU-Japan deal to potentially over 70 under the UK-Japan agreement, the deal will lead to improved recognition of key UK brands in the Japanese market.

This should mean even more people in Japan will be able to enjoy a taste of Kent!

Please remember to keep following the guidance - stay alert to help control the virus and save lives.

** Please pass this email onto anyone you think might be interested and encourage them to sign up to these newsletters on my website, here ([link removed]) .
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